Monthly Archives: April 2021

Choon James: Understanding Begins With Me

I was a young mother with a 2-year-old boy living at Wymount Terrace on the BYU Provo campus in Utah. I was doing laundry with Robbie when a tall dark man walked into the laundry room.

I don’t know what his nationality was. He could have been a black-American citizen or a “foreigner”. But he did have a particularly dark pigment.

When Robbie saw him, his quick response was to point to him and said loudly, “Mom, what is that?”

That was awkward.

But I immediately told Robbie that he was our friend who had a darker skin than us. I said it loud enough so our visitor could hear it. Our new friend and I smiled at each other .

Our kind visitor understood a child. He did not get offended. He did not get angry. He did not blame me for my child’s actions. He did not start lecturing me.

I think about that incident once in a while. Someone who had no exposure to a black person could naturally react the way he did. I appreciate that good man with a kind understanding nature. It makes life less complicated.

Choon James: Let Peace Begins With Me.

I consider myself fortunate to grow up in Singapore till I was seventeen. We lived happily and peacefully with so many different races, cultures, customs, languages, religions, cuisine, and so forth.

My childhood friends were Chinese, Malays, Indians, Tamils, and others. Some of my best childhood friends were Muslims. A neighboring Malay mother nursed me in addition to her own infant when my mother fell ill for a time and could not lactate.

My father’s drinking buddy was a Hindu Indian who spoke the Hokkien dialect. When Chandra died, mother was mad at him; she said that he did not cry his heart out for his own parents like he did for Chandra.

It was not that there were no racial conflicts or unrest. I remember the Malays and Chinese tensions headlines. (But there was no friction in our own community.) I’m guessing it was during the Singapore merger with Malaysia in 1963 or thereabouts. We were living on a farm off Holland Road area. I recall one night witnessing the menfolks together with their changkols. They were building underground pits with grass-top covers to prepare for possible raids from the outside.

All in all, with the Singapore government’s concerted efforts to unify and achieve racial harmony and equality, those racial tensions dissipated to a minimal.

I can’t recall any politician in my youth in Singapore stoking the flames of racial disruptions or exploiting one race or group against another. The message was always clear and precise: We were Singaporeans first. We must live in harmony, respect each other, and focus on the meritocracy of the individual.

So it was easy for me to live a simple life with a basic philosophy – to always respect others. Racial peace, respect, and understanding must begin with me.

Certainly, Hawaii is a wonderful place to be living in . Aloha abounds. A few mainland states may explode but let us always be anchored in the spirit of aloha in our island home.